We want better mileage - but power and size, too

Consumer Reports survey shows that car buyers aren't ready to sacrifice much for more mileage.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Most Americans want a car with better fuel economy, but only about half say they would be willing to sacrifice size or performance to get it, according to a national survey conducted by Consumer Reports.

When asked in late April, just before gas prices spiked to record levels, 69 percent of people who said they planned to purchase a new car within the next year said they wanted better fuel economy.

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Of all the respondents - not just those currently shopping for a car - just 52 percent said they would be willing to get a smaller vehicle to get better mileage. Forty-one percent said they would be willing to give up performance and only 45 percent said they would take fewer amenities in exchange for better mileage.

The percentages were nearly the same among those planning to buy a new car within a year.

Thirty-eight percent said they would be willing to buy a more expensive car to get better mileage and 31 percent said they would be willing to buy a car that used more expensive fuel.

Hybrid and diesel-powered cars both have better fuel economy than ordinary gasoline powered cars but both also cost more.

About 47 percent of those currently shopping for a car said they would consider purchasing a hybrid, diesel or flex-fuel vehicles. (Flex-fuel vehicles can run on either gasoline or E85, a fuel blend that contains 85 percent ethanol, a fuel derived from plant matter. It is cleaner-burning than gasoline but provides slightly worse fuel economy.)

Only one in nine of all survey respondents said they currently drove a vehicle with any of those technologies.

Consumer Reports polled a randomly selected national sample of 1,804 people. Of those, about 360 said they were planning to purchase a car within the next year. That number is large enough be considered a representative sample of car shoppers.

Among all respondents, whether they were currently shopping for a car or not, 60 percent said they were either "concerned" or "very concerned" about the environment. Only six percent said they were not concerned.

Three-quarters of respondents said they would drive less or drive more slowly to save fuel.

Gas prices would have to go even higher than they are now before people would drastically change their behavior. On average, respondents said gas would need to cost $3.90 a gallon before they would make major changes. Top of page